Cario Middle School students help write text for new Shem Creek historical marker honoring Jonathan Lucas Sr.

MOUNT PLEASANT — Eighth-grader Hannah Massar has grown up boating and kayaking in Shem Creek, but she didn’t know until this school year that those waters had historical significance.

She learned that Jonathan Lucas Sr., who had a home overlooking the creek, created the first water- and tide-powered rice mills, and those inventions revolutionized the rice industry. Shem Creek was the site of the first dual rice and saw mill powered by tides back in the 1790s.

Massar and a group of Cario Middle School students volunteered to help write the text for a historical marker in Lucas’ honor that soon will be erected in that area.

“It was a total learning experience for me and everyone else who did it,” she said.

The town’s Historical Commission has created such markers for schools in the past, but this was the first time that it asked students to help research and craft a marker’s wording. Students gave their own time outside of class to work on the project.

“I provided them the room and the resources, but these girls really did it on their own,” said Gerilyn Leland, an eighth-grade South Carolina history teacher. “It really was student driven. I’m very proud of them.”

Leland said Lucas doesn’t get as much notice in history books because there were fewer rice plantations than cotton. But his creation was the equivalent of the cotton gin to cotton; it could take the husk off rice kernels, a tedious task, she said.

This could be one of the last historical markers the town secures. They are costly — about $2,100 for the metal plaque and structure — and the text can’t be amended once new information is learned, said Kiera Reinertsen, a town planner. The town is working to develop a website as well as an app for smartphones that would have information, pictures, video and audio clips, she said.

The town has about 60 local and state markers, and they hope to have the one for Lucas ready by August. Reinertsen said it’s not been decided yet where it will be exactly.

For the Lucas marker, Massar said they learned far more than they could fit on the plaque. One of their interesting finds was that traces of the mill foundation and holding pond still are visible at low tide.

She said she plans to go soon to see whether she can see it.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.

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